People who have panic disorder often get terror feelings suddenly and over and over again without warning. No one can predict the time of occurrence of the attack and many patients are likely to get anxious intensely between attacks, since they tend to worry more about the next occurrence. The attacks may occur irrespective of the time and place of the occurrence. They have this lingering thought which haunts them more than the attack. When the attack begins, the most likely symptoms are
· Palpitations, or pounding heart, or increased heart rate
· Chest pain or chest discomfort
· Choking sensation
· Feeling unreal or detached from self and surroundings
· Feeling dizzy, or lightheaded, or faint or unsteady
· Fear of dying
· Chills or hot flashes
· Fear of loss of control or becoming insane
· Sweating all over
· Nausea or other abdominal discomfort
· Numbness or tingling sensation
· Shortness of breath or smothering sensation
· Trembling or shaking
Attacks are likely to occur at any time even during a non-dream sleep. These attacks can occur a few minutes or can go to a maximum of 10 minutes. Rarely, the maximum range can extend to an hour or even more. Panic disorder can accompany depression or drug abuse or alcohol abuse or phobias.
Many people with panic disorder avoid places like grocery shops, movie theatres, buses, trains, etc. They may sometimes fear to leave their home also, or leave the house only when they have the company of their spouse or a trusted person. They try to avoid all situations in which they think they will be helpless in case of an attack. When they restrict their lives in this way, the condition is referred to as agoraphobia. It has been found that this may be a genetic disease which runs in the families. However, early diagnosis can prevent the disease to progress to agoraphobia.
The patient normally gets recurrent or repeated and unexpected attacks at least once a month. There are chances for some people to get it several times a day whereas for some others it may occur weekly or monthly. One or more of the following symptoms may occur specifically.
· Constant fear about the future attacks
· Worry about the after-effects or consequences of the attack
· Behavioral changes due to attack
The phobia is not a symptom of panic disorder. It may be or may not be present. Again the panic disorder is not linked to the abuse of any substance like drugs, alcohol, medications or general medical conditions like hyperthyroidism. Panic attacks are also not reported by other diseases like Social Phobia, Specific Phobia, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Separation Anxiety Disorder, etc.